Post Mortem – Failing as a Project Manager

                I have always been an academic, but having children created a need for other skills.  As my children grew, I adapted.  First I learned to build children’s toys.  Then I learned to sew superhero curtains and pillows.  I ran Boy Scout troops and learned how to kick a soccer ball properly.  I even learned to fix my own car so that my boys would have that skill for the future.  In essence, I was beginning to think I had mastered all of the skills required to raise boys.  Until my husband and teenagers asked me to create a room dedicated to their hobbies.  For those of you who do not know, I am struggle with spatial awareness, but my husband and children seem to have no problem understanding the limitations of a space.  So I took the role of Project Manager instead of just getting started.

                As an Instructional Designer, I know the basics of Project Management and I started with a needs assessment.  First I called a family meeting to determine which hobbies we could house in the space and what furniture would be best suited to this project.  My husband became the project champion (Greer, 2010).  We set aside a budget and collected all of the resources we could find around the house.  Everyone was assigned a role with clearly defined jobs (Greer, 2010).  My oldest son agreed to move furniture and paint, while my middle child was responsible for painting and decorating.  My husband would decide on furniture.  I created a virtual room of the same dimensions and began shopping on craigslist for all of the items we required.  Assigning specific jobs made the process much smoother.  We had a virtual blueprint and new furniture in less than a week.

                Then came the implementation phase.  It began wonderfully, everyone completed their assigned tasks ahead of schedule and the room was ready for assembly in two days.  That is when everything fell apart.  My husband was supposed to help me install a shelf the length of an entire wall.  First, we could not find the studs.  Then we realized that the supports for the shelf did not support it properly.  When we placed the first gaming console on it, the entire thing fell off the supports.  Our project stalled for almost a month while we worked on fitting a shelf the length of the wall.  Finally, in desperation I brought in two desks and eliminated the shelf from the design.  We were over budget and well past our completion date.  My schedule was now just a pretty piece of paper and we still had extra furniture in the living room.  Our project sponsor was completely frustrated.  As the project manager, I had to get this group back on track.  With a little prodding and a brand new Xbox for motivation, we were able to celebrate the room’s completion one week later.  We commemorated this special project with a boys’ night.  My house was filled with boys and men until the wee hours of the morning.  Although our project stalled, the room was a true man cave when we finished, complete with more Xboxes than should be in one house.

Our lesson:  don’t assume your husband is handy.  Overestimating his skill put us over budget and behind or completion date.  If I were to do this again, I would bring in an expert (my friend’s husband) to build the table.  In the end, I learned a valuable lesson about Project Management.  Things do not always go according to plan.  You need a backup plan or at least the flexibility to know when something just is not going to work.  As you work on your own projects, I wish you luck and the flexibility to be successful.



Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

4 thoughts on “Post Mortem – Failing as a Project Manager

  1. Pingback: Learning from a Personal Project “Post Mortem” | IDT Blog of R Talbot

  2. I laughed out loud (a few times) as I read your post! What a great story! You bring up great points regarding flexibility. I loved the way you illustrated the story and tied it back to this week’s course materials. Nice job!

  3. Marla – absolutely love your blog! Your post about your new man cave painted a very vivid picture in my mind while I was reading it. The room sounds fabulous, by the way!

    Sometimes the technical skills for your “SMEs” have to be proven prior to starting a project. : )

  4. Marla,
    I loved your blog post and laughed out aloud. This is a perfect example of the need for contingency plan in a project and the importance of consulting to a subject matter expert when it is necessary. I liked “If I were to do this again, I would bring in an expert (my friend’s husband) to build the table” part of your story. By the way, I really liked the way you delegated the missions and activities to your family members. Thank you very much for making me smile and learn from your experience.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s